Moving Overseas? Top Ten Tips For Expatriates

The giant leap

The first – and perhaps most obvious – thing to say about moving overseas is that, yes, it’s a big step. A giant leap, even. But while that’s a given, if you’re considering becoming an expat, then it’s worth keeping this in mind at all times, and making sure you never underestimate just how big (and sometimes overwhelming) a step it can be.

By keeping in mind a few important points, you can help make your transition to life in a new overseas location as smooth as possible – and make your time there even better. So, check out these top ten tips for expatriates we’ve compiled (note: they’re not in order of importance) and get ready for the move of your life.

Preliminary investigations – also known as research, homework, fact finding. This doesn’t need to be a big effort, but there will be a lot to find out. So approach it methodically. If you can, then you should visit your intended country of residence even if it’s just for a short time. No amount of desk research or looking at pictures equates to the experience of being there. Language, culture, legal system, public transport, local geography – there’s a lot of stuff you need to know. But don’t be overwhelmed – learning is a gradual process.

Objectives – think about your reasons for the move abroad, and what you hope to get from the experience. If you go into it with defined objectives you’ll have a better sense of your reasons for doing what you’re doing and hopefully feel more in control.

One step at a time – is the way to take things. Think of it like project management, and separate out which areas you need to deal with and when. By organising your tasks visually – using spreadsheets or other software, you’ll be able to track your progress and hopefully keep on top of all the tasks and checklists.

Get social networking – before you leave, and when you get there. The instant communication provided by social networks means that keeping up with all the news from home is easy and fun to do. And using other types of networking like expat forums means that you’ll be able to get advice on things relating to your new place of residence – and maybe even make new friends in the process.

Integrate – okay, so there are countries where integration isn’t going to be possible, and expats live in compounds. But if you’re in a country where you can mix with the locals socially after work, then dive in and get to know the people – bearing in mind that you’ll need to be mindful of local ways of doing things. But you’ll already have done your research on this, right?

Explore – get out there and take an interest in your surroundings. Be curious. And get the most out of your time overseas whether it’s an expatriate assignment or a longer term stay such as a retirement.  Sometimes it’s too easy to get into a routine, so with a whole new country out there to explore, take a bit of time to find some new places and things to do.


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Healthcare – your research will hopefully give you some good info on the healthcare system in your new location. Healthcare systems are vastly different from one country to the next, and some excel in areas where others aren’t quite so efficient. Make sure you have the appropriate level of medical insurance. If you’re off on an international assignment your employer may well provide your medical cover – but you also need to check the small print and know what’s what when it comes to your level of coverage.

Bureaucracy – be prepared for things like house purchases and other legal procedures to be done in a very different way. Another point where some advice from the expat forums could come in useful.

Coming home – ask anyone who has spent an extended period of time in, say, Japan – and you’ll hear how repatriation isn’t always the softest of landings. Reverse culture shock light be something you need to be aware of and prepare for in advance. And the longer you’ve been away, the bigger a transition your repatriation becomes.

About the author: Jen Jones writes on a number of international medical insurance, health, wellbeing and travel topics for blogs and websites.

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